In the counties of Machakos, Kitui, Makueni and other areas of Eastern Kenya, drought remains a perennial problem. Farmers there still grow crops, taking advantage of the short, wet seasons. However, harsh weather and an unpredictable market can sometimes lead to a glut, and the rugged terrains make their post-harvest losses higher compared to other regions in the country.
To cut down on post-harvest losses, Stephan and Rachel Bleyer, a German-based couple, is installing a solar-powered cooling chamber. “Unlike the common story that that this region is unproductive, there is a huge amount of produce coming from here especially fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices,” Stephan said during the handing over of solar-powered Cellux cooling chamber to Joseph Muuo Farm in Kithimani.
Stephan said this will save the 40 per cent of their produce that was going bad. “Cellux manufacturer, Suncooling and Kramer, donated 90 per cent of the cooling chamber after they heard about the farmer’s plight, while Mzee Muuo offered a section of his farm to install it,” he said.
Stephan said they chose a machine that operates off-grid since there is no power supply in the area. He added besides offering a place for farmers to safely store their produce, the cooling chamber will allow the community to aggregate and access common markets, thereby avoiding exploitation by brokers.
One grower said the installation of the cooling facility was timely. He grows bananas, French beans, eggplant, tomatoes and capsicum for export. He urged the national and county government to install such facilities in other high horticultural producing semi-arid areas to cushion farmers from losses.